"How do you
explain us being here?" he asked before Game 4 was postponed. "If you
go back and examine the last five, 10, 15 years of the playoffs, there's a lot
of weird stuff that happens. A lot of it comes down to which way the game goes
when you get to a couple of pivotal moments. That's one of October's charms.
The more you go through it, the more you realize how fragile things
The World Series
has crowned seven different champions in seven years, a run of parity unmatched
even by the Super Bowl--era NFL, supposedly sports' gold standard of balance.
Selig said before the World Series that he will give some thought to placing
obstacles in front of wild-card teams in the postseason, such as taking away a
first-round home game, but the commissioner has come to enjoy the playoffs'
signature unpredictability. Who's to say that teams such as the Mariners,
Phillies, Reds or Blue Jays--all of whom finished within five wins of the
Cardinals and have never reached any of the 12 World Series in the wild-card
era--can't have their turn at the table next year?
tribute to the guts of this team," La Russa, in his office after Game 5,
said of his club's unexpected run. Behind him sat an open suitcase, one he had
packed in case St. Louis had to return to Detroit for Game 6. Among his
traveling items was a book, Act of Treason, a title that might have described
how an 83-win world champion might have been received in another era.
The lesson of the
Cardinals actually is not so new. As Thoreau wrote in the pre-wild-card era of
1854, "I learned ... that if one advances confidently in the direction of
his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet
with a success unexpected in common hours."
Is there a success
sweeter than the unexpected kind? Not if you saw how the most famous 83-win
team in history celebrated or how their faithful filled the streets of a grand
old baseball town into the early-morning hours of last Saturday. There was a
point at which centerfielder Jim Edmonds, the longest-tenured Cardinal, cleared
the clubhouse of reporters, cameras and even family members. "Now we're
going to have our fun!" he said.
soaked through their clothes, hats askew, leaning upon one another, half drunk
and half silly, gathered around the world championship trophy for the sloppiest
and greatest team picture any of them will ever know. Suddenly one of them
realized that somebody was missing and dispatched a clubhouse attendant to
fetch him from the field. Eckstein had been shaking hands with fans. Alerted,
he ran through the dugout, up the runway steps, past the indoor batting tunnel,
past the video room and through the double doors of the clubhouse to join the
Upon seeing him
burst into the room his teammates cheered, "MVP! MVP!"
And with his
arrival the Cards were complete. The photographer snapped the shutter,
preserving this moment, this team.